Date
23 October 2017
FIFA chief Sepp Blatter says misconduct has no place in football. Investigators would not say if he is a target in the widening investigation. Photo: Bloomberg
FIFA chief Sepp Blatter says misconduct has no place in football. Investigators would not say if he is a target in the widening investigation. Photo: Bloomberg

US expects more arrests in widening FIFA graft probe

United States prosecutors expect more arrests after seven senior officials of soccer’s world governing body were held by Swiss authorities in a corruption investigation.

However, they would not be drawn if Sepp Blatter, the powerful president of FIFA, is a target in the probe, Reuters reported Thursday.  

Soccer chiefs, including serving and former members of the FIFA executive committee, were held after a dawn raid on a five-star hotel in Zurich, pending extradition to the US.

Swiss authorities also announced a criminal investigation into the awarding of the next two World Cups to Russia and Qatar.

Blatter, 79, is standing for re-election to a fifth term at the FIFA Congress in Zurich on Friday. The vote would go ahead as planned, officials said.

US authorities said nine officials and five sports media and promotions executives were charged in cases involving more than US$150 million in bribes over a 24-year period.

The investigation uncovered complex money laundering schemes, millions of dollars in untaxed incomes and tens of millions in offshore accounts held by FIFA officials, they said.

Swiss police arrested the seven, all from the Latin American and Caribbean region, and detained them pending extradition proceedings to the United States, which could take years if they contest the process.

The Federal Office of Justice in Switzerland said that six would contest extradition but that one person agreed to be extradited.

“As charged in the indictment, the defendants fostered a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest sport in the world,” said Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey.

“Undisclosed and illegal payments, kickbacks, and bribes became a way of doing business at FIFA.”

Blatter, who has denied and survived allegations of his involvement in corruption, said in a statement: “Let me be clear: such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game.”

The statement also said that FIFA welcomed the actions and the investigations “and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football”.

Separate from the U.S. investigation, Swiss prosecutors said they had opened their own criminal proceedings against unidentified people on suspicion of mismanagement and money laundering related to the awarding of rights to host the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 event in Qatar.

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch told reporters at a news conference in New York her office did not want to impede the 2018 and 2022 World Cups but looked forward to working with Swiss authorities investigating the award of the tournaments.

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